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ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) has been the subject of much discussion in newspapers, magazines and on television. How does a parent sort out the truth from the trash? It's not easy. The purpose of this brochure is to provide answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about ADHD.
What is ADHD? :
Sometimes called "ADD" or "Hyperactivity," ADHD is one of the most common behavioral disorders among children and adolescents. It affects 5 to 7% of children (about 1 or 2 per classroom). It is three times more common among boys than girls. ADHD is a "developmental disorder," meaning that signs of the problem emerge during the child's early years. Parents may first notice that their child is very restless and fidgety. He may have great difficulty sitting still or settling down to sleep. He is "always on the go," and has a hard time controlling his impulses. He does things without thinking about the consequences of his actions. He may run in the street without looking, climb too high in trees, or run off when visiting a store.
As the child enters school, she has difficulty paying attention and getting her work done. She has a hard time following rules and instructions, especially when they are complex or include several steps. She doesn't seem to learn from rewards or punishments. She may have few friends because of her troubling behavior. Adults may notice that she does better with one-on-one attention or when an activity is fast-paced, exciting or new.
Other features of ADHD may include :
• Difficulty waiting turns in games or other activities.
• A poor sense of time
• Difficulty setting or pursuing future goals
• Inconsistency in work performance. ("Sometimes he does well, but at other times he just can't hold it together.")
• Work performance gets worse as the task get longer.
What causes ADHD? :
ADHD runs in families. About 8 of 10 cases are inherited. (If a child has ADHD, there's a 50/50 chance that one or both parents has it too.) The other 2 of 10 cases may be due to the mother drinking alcohol, smoking, or being exposed to second-hand smoke when pregnant with the child. An injury to the front part of the brain can also cause these problems.
Studies have shown that the front part of the brain (which helps us control our behavior and use good judgment) is less active in these children than in their peers.
ADHD is not caused by stress or poor parenting, though these can certainly make the problem worse. ADHD is not caused by food additives or by eating too much sugar. (Toxic substances, like lead, in the bloodstream can cause problems that look like ADHD, so your physician may recommend a blood test.)
Will my child outgrow ADHD?:
ADHD is a chronic condition, but it may improve enough as the child matures that treatment is no longer needed. About half of ADHD children, however, will continue to have difficulties into adulthood. While one may become less "hyper" as an adult, problems with organization, attention, concentration and "acting without thinking" (impulsiveness) often persist. These long-term difficulties can be significantly lessened with appropriate treatment.
What can be done to help? :
There is no cure for ADHD, but effective treatments are available. First, talk to a professional who is knowledgeable about ADHD. It is very important to get an accurate diagnosis. If your child has ADHD, it is critical that you become an educated consumer, so you know what you are dealing with and what you can do about it. Effective treatment involves learning about ADHD, learning how to handle problem behavior, and working cooperatively with school personnel. Medicine can be very helpful. At the root of ADHD is the underactive front part of the brain, so medicine is really the only treatment that goes right to the source of the problem. Many parents are understandably cautious about medicines like Ritalin, because there has been some bad press about it. Yet over 700 research studies have clearly shown that medication, used properly, is safe and can make a major positive difference in the lives of children and adults struggling with ADHD. The medicine works by making the front part of the brain more active, so that it does its job more effectively. Research has uncovered little support for common fears of becoming addicted to medicine or losing height and weight. The potential benefits of medication often outweigh any risks, especially when ADHD has seriously disrupted school, work, or family life.
What doesn't work? :
As important as knowing what can help a child with ADHD is knowing what does not help. Treatments with little or no demonstrated value include:
• Dietary changes
• Vitamin therapy
• Chiropractic treatment
• Relaxation training
• Biofeedback training
• Eye exercises
How is ADHD diagnosed? :
There is no single, definitive test for ADHD. The most important diagnostic information comes from people who have observed the child's behavior over an extended period of time. The evaluator will interview parents and, as appropriate, other people who know the child well. Most professionals use specialized questionnaires to get further information about the child's behavior at home and school. Formal testing of knowledge, thinking, memory, or attention is useful in some cases, especially if there is suspicion of a learning disability along with ADHD. The evaluation should be tailored to the needs of the particular child and family with sensitivity to issues of severity, urgency and cost.
Where can I get more information? :
Many pediatricians, family doctors, school counselors, school psychologists, and teachers can provide good information. CHADD (Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorder), a national support organization, is an excellent resource (1-800-233-4050). Use the Internet carefully . . . much online information is inaccurate and nothing more than an attempt to sell unproven products. Among the best web sites are CHADD (http://www.chadd.org) and the National Institute of Mental Health (http://www.nimh.nih.gov). You can also contact your local Bowen Center office and ask to see or talk to a member of our ADHD Consulting Team.
Bowen Center's ADHD Consulting Team :
Bowen Center has specially trained ADHD consultants available in each of our offices. These professionals have extensive experience in counseling children and families and have in-depth knowledge of ADHD diagnosis and treatment. A consultant can evaluate your child and determine whether or not ADHD is the source of your child's difficulties. If a diagnosis of ADHD is justified, the Bowen Center consultant can provide up-to-date information about this handicapping condition and help in managing the problems associated with it. We strongly encourage you to allow the consultant to share information and collaborate with your child's teachers and doctor, since this is often key to a good outcome.
The development of the ADHD Consulting Team is part of Bowen Center's continuing efforts to understand and address the needs of those we are privileged to serve.